The 21st Century Military

The 21st Century Military

E-mail debates of newsworthy topics.
Aug. 6 1998 3:30 AM

The 21st Century Military

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Larry:

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       First of all, congratulations on your new and important appointment at the Council on Foreign Relations. You will do a great job. And thanks for your penetrating and thoughtful dialogue on 21st century U.S. defenses.
       One of the reasons I purposely and specifically avoided suggesting the specific structure of a classic republican military for the 21st century is that such a structure--indeed, even minor adjustments to our outdated Cold War military structures--cannot be devised without a more thorough discussion of the nature of conflict in the next century, a clearer definition of U.S. national interests, and at least the outline of a 21st century foreign policy. We agree that our leadership has, so far, not provided these guideposts.
       Therefore, whether the classic republican military should be 500,000 regular and 1 million reserves or 750,000 regular and 2 million reserves cannot be seriously discussed in this policy vacuum. In any case, The Minuteman is not intended to provide a blueprint for the post-Cold War military, except in these important regards: 1) Our political heritage is republican; 2) that heritage is based upon civic duty and citizen involvement; 3) classic republicanism is based in part on the suspicion of a large, permanent standing military in peacetime; and 4) the outlines of the most likely 21st century threat--low intensity urban conflict between subnational factions--strongly suggest that a smaller, differently structured regular force, backed up by a citizen reserve in a higher state of readiness, is the best military structure to deal with that threat.
       A large citizen reserve will engage the families and communities of its members in exponential numbers, whether that reserve numbers 1 million, 2 million, or 3 million. It will cause its members and those extended communities to pay closer attention to affairs of the world, question national authority on engagement decisions, and generally require a higher degree of citizen involvement in the decisions that shape our 21st century destiny.
       I do not "have to" argue for universal military training, but at two points in the book I do suggest that it might be both necessary (if volunteerism does not suffice) and therapeutic.
       My view on the world of the 21st century, as spelled out at some length in The Minuteman, is this: Economics are integrating--spiraling upward--even as politics are disintegrating--spiraling downward; the nation state is, along the fault lines of cultures, at least, giving way to tribal, ethnic, and civilizational forces as the object of loyalty; peacemaking in the low intensity, urban conflict environment must precede peacekeeping, and it should be carried out by a new international security force in which the United States participates but does not dominate; and greater development efforts in Latin America and Africa may help alleviate some of the migration pressures from the South to the North that threaten instability.
       The classic republican military I advocate (the one that was our pattern until 1948) will participate in increasingly collective international peacemaking and peacekeeping efforts and intervene unilaterally only where direct and immediate threats to our security exist, e.g., hostage-taking, terrorist threats against our possessions, interruption of international routes of commerce, threats by hostile interests against any ally that cannot defend itself.
       We can reduce a number of these threats by, for example, restoration of an energy independence policy that makes us less dependent on unstable energy supplies, democracy-building and much greater engagement of Russia into the West, and development of a genuine international peacemaking force.
       It has been a great pleasure--and challenge--to have been engaged with you in this dialogue. My only regret is that it is not occurring in the White House, Congress, the media, and throughout our country.

All best personal regards,
Gary Hart